“So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.” (Rom. 9:18); “this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:3-4)
One of the most basic theological errors about God is thinking every desire of God is equal. That miscue has launched such heresies as Open Theism, where God’s nature can change; to Arminianism, where Man’s will canʼt be changed — even by God. But every desire of God is not equal. What God brings to pass and what God wishes would come to pass, many times are not the same. What a cattleman desires of a calf isn’t always what He desires of that same calf in the herd. In fact, it may be even contradictory. Three combinations of Godʼs decrees and desires exist:
First, God determines what He desires. This is where God’s decrees and God’s will for holiness and/or mercy are the same. God brings to pass what God has always desired in His nature and word. For example, it was His desire to g lorify Christ from all eternity with an elect people, and He most certainly will bring that to pass. “He predestined us [decree] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to HImself, according to the kind intention of His will [desire]” (Eph. 1:5). Both wills are accomplished.
Second, God determines what He does not desire. The classic example is Christ’s death on the cross — pre-determined by the foreknowledge of God, but brought about through what God does not desire — godless men breaking God’s commands (Acts 2:22-23). God decreed to bruise Jesus (Is. 53:4,10) through the betrayal of Judas (Lk. 22:3), the contempt of Herod (Lk. 23:11), the injustice of Pilate (Lk. 23:24), and the hatred of the Jews (Lk. 23:21) — all sins. God willed that His will not be done, so that His will would be done!
Third, God does not determine what He does desire. This is the above passage in 1 Timothy where God desires all men to be saved, but doesn’t20decree their salvation;20or wishing for men to repent (2 Pet. 3:9) but doesn’t grant them the gift (2 Tim. 2:25). Some will say that this makes God disingenuous — saying that He cares when He doesn’t save. But insincerity is built on a lie, which God cannot do (Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). Simply because a husband chooses a wife doesn’t mean he hates all other women. God could love and save everyone the same, but for reasons of His own, has chosen not to — reasons left to His infinite wisdom for the displaying of His glory (Rom. 9:22-23). The error is in reading far too much into “desire” than what God has said, or not enough into it when God has said it.
Be careful how you judge the affections of God — either by saying He has only one, or that He isn’t honest in them. God’s goodness doesn’t contradict His sovereignty. Remember, people who bury talents in the kingdom of God start with this error (Matt. 25:24-25).
– Mark Lacour